Saturday, February 20, 2016

Global Cache IP2IR

I won an eBay bid ($27) on a used Global Cache IR2IP device on Monday, paid for it on Tuesday, and had it in my hands on Friday. Because $27 is about 20% of the normal price, I was nervous that it wouldn't work.  Turns out, there's no issue with the box other than what the seller had noted.

Basically, the GC IP2IPR is an Ethernet-to-Infrared converter.  It has a web interface (for base conversion) and an operational interface on port 4998. I say "operational" as you can connect to it with a telnet client or a browser, but isn't really a telnet or web service (more later).

Shortcomings related to the purchase:

- no emitters
- no manual

The lack of emitters was solved by digging in my junk box.  The emitter from an old Tivo works nicely.  I'm think of purchasing more emitters from eBay or Amazon.

The lack of manual appears to be caused by the manufacturer, in that they don't send out manuals with their hardware (I just toss 'em anyways).  Instead, Global Cache's web site offers tutorials and an API document.  If you're going to write controls for any of Global Cache's devices, you most definitely should download a copy of the API document.

Even with the web site documentation, there's a slight learning curve involved with figuring out how to use the device.  After a reset (one of the things I really don't like on this device), you have to figure out the IP address for the device.  This wasn't that difficult as the device's MAC address is printed on the sticker on the bottom of the case.  You just need to consult your router's "Connected Devices" list.

Pointing a browser at the IP address gives you access to the web interface, where you can make configuration changes.  Please note that learning/sending IR codes are not done via this interface.

GC provides enough software and information (and sample code) to start experimenting with the device.  I think I like GC's "let others write the code" approach.  Various home automation programs already have controls written for the IP2IR device.

I experimented, using various of GC's software, until I figured out how to manage the IR from the command line (writing the controls are quite similar to the controls for my home-grown jukebox, which also uses a telnet-like interface).  I now have a handful of working "send" commands and I've put "write code for IR 'learning'" on my to do list.  I'll post my code on GitHub as they become clean enough for others' use.

While I really like the device, there are a couple annoying bits.  The first relates to the hole for the "learning" sensor and the factory reset.  Both the IR sensor and the factory reset reside behind that single, tiny hole in the case.  Where most products have a switch behind the hole (i.e., you push on one end of a pin while reseting the power), GC designed it such that you short out two pins.  If you push, you risk damaging the "learning" sensor.

The other (very minor) annoyance is the location of the "learning" sensor.  It's on the back of the case, wedged in between the jacks for the power and the first emitter.  The recommended distance for the "teaching" remote control is a quarter inch.  If you have cabling for Ethernet, power, and IR emitters all connected, accessing the back of the device and using a one quarter inch distance may be a bit difficult (I have very stiff Ethernet cables).

For the price of the used device ($27 vice the full $110+), this was most definitely a worthwhile purchase.  If the docs and user comments are to be believe, I now have a network-enabled IR interface that can learn and send just about any IR remote command.

Bonuses noted: While writing this, I noted the PoE sticker on the bottom of the device.  If I can find my PoE injector, I should be able to use the device without attaching the power wart.  (Note: the PoE version does have a power jack so that you can use the device where you don't have PoE.)  This also changes what I thought was a IP2IR model to a IP2IR-P.